The unfolding litigation over the contribution of Roundup use and exposure to over 100,000 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in the U.S. has been one of the biggest food and ag stories worldwide for a couple of years now.
Just a few weeks ago, Bayer/Monsanto announced a $10 billion-plus settlement of a majority of the Roundup-NHL cases, and mounted a major media campaign to convince investors that Bayer had put the Monsanto-acquisition debacle behind it.
For complex reasons grounded in the pesticide industry’s hubris and denial, the initial bump upward in Bayer’s stock price in response to the announcement of the settlement has been largely reversed by Judge Chhabria’s blunt skepticism about a second, separate component of the settlement involving how future lawsuits over the Roundup-NHL connection will be dealt with. That is another sticky wicket best left for another time.
Back in the real world, Bayer/Monsanto has to save their Roundup and Roundup Ready seed franchises, because without the massive profits the corporation earns from their glyphosate-related seed traits and Roundup herbicide sales globally, the stock and company will face a crisis of investor confidence of unimaginable proportions.
For years now, Hygeia Analytics has been spelling out in reasonably clear English what Bayer/Monsanto has to do to “Save Roundup.” The full list of Bayer/Monsanto “acid tests” to gauge whether Bayer is serious about saving Roundup and its related GMO crops appeared on Hygeia June 8, 2018, the day after the acquisition closed.
There are three big ticket items on Bayer’s list of “acid test” actions —
- Reformulate all U.S.-branded Roundup to remove the high-risk POEA surfactants, replacing them with the much safer surfactants now in all Roundup sold throughout the EU, and keep doing the same until all Roundup and other GBHs sold worldwide are as safe as the Roundup already sold in the EU. (For more, see this and this paper).
- Place clear and meaningful cancer and DNA damage warnings on all Roundup labels, including added safety requirements for people spraying Roundup with small-scale, handheld equipment, or via ATVs or truck mounted sprayers, and especially directed toward people spraying Roundup dozens of times a year, for a few to several hours per day.
- Lead a global campaign to revoke all U.S. tolerances and Codex Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) allowing the pre-harvest, desiccation uses of glyphosate-based herbicides (including of course Roundup) on wheat, oats, other grains, edible beans, and dozens of other crops worldwide.
If Bayer/Monsanto gets serious about implementing the above three changes, it is surely possible that Roundup will remain an important widget in farmers’ weed control toolbox for many years to come.
So far, Bayer has shown no interest or willingness to move beyond the “Roundup is safe enough to drink” mythology that Monsanto worked so diligently and successfully to create and sustain since the early 1980s. Bayer is still claiming there is no need for Roundup label changes or reformulation, no cause for health or environmental concerns, and no basis for the unanimous jury decisions in the first three trials that have been completed.
But out in the real world, things are changing, and fast. A growing list of countries are banning or severely restricting Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides. Environmental groups have raised the money needed to do a job government should be doing — and have released the results of residue testing that is alerting consumers — and food manufacturers — that essentially all of us are getting our daily dose of glyphosate now from mostly grain-based products. Hundreds of additional cases and dozens of new Roundup-NHL trials will start anew once the COVID-driven shut down of courts and jury trials is relaxed.
And in today’s news, this report from Radio Canada International:
“Another major grain processor in Canada has said it will no longer accept oat crops that have been sprayed with glyphosate used as a pre-harvest desiccant starting as of January 2021.
Glyphosate has become a controversial herbicide used as the active chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup brand. There has been debate about potential harmful effects on human health connected with the product. A California court in 2018 awarded $289 million to a groundskeeper who claimed exposure to Roundup caused his lymphoma cancer.
There have also been claims that trace elements of the chemical have turned up in popular oat cereals and in such things as granola bars. The Washington-based non-profit Environmental Working Group said independent lab tests found 43 of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats contained trace amounts of the herbicide.
Now Richardson International says starting next year no oats will be accepted that were pre-harvest treated with glyphosate. Richardson has processing mills in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The decision means a major oat buyer will join another major operation in Saskatchewan, Grain Millers, which stopped buying pre-harvest glyphosate treated oats in 2015.
Farmers have been using the product as a late season weed killer and as a dessicant measure in the event of late harvest rain which can reduce quality of the crop.”
And so another shoe has fallen, with more to come.
The $64 (billion) question is when will Bayer/Monsanto accept the need to engage, and start taking the concrete, affordable steps needed to save Roundup? Do they really think the next EPA is going to support Scott Pruitt’s view of the science linking high applicator and worker exposures to NHL?
If Bayer/Monsanto continue to place their bet on sustaining mythology so profoundly out of step with facts and science, the company could lose control of the undercurrents that now threaten their valuable, glyphosate-based and glyphosate-dependent income streams.
Bayer needs to keep selling Roundup and earning seed premiums for the Roundup Ready trait in order to pay for past pesticide industry failure to “steward” Roundup and assure that “safety is job number one,” as Monsanto has claimed for forty years.
Marc Montgomery; “Canadian grain processor to refuse crops with pre-harvest glyphosate;” Radio Canada International; Date Posted: July 8, 2020, Date Accessed: July 9, 2020.